Aug 312023

One good turn deserves another. Yesterday we premiered a fascinating new album by Forest Thrall being released tomorrow by Death Prayer Records, and today we’re premiering another fascinating Death Prayer release, also hitting the streets tomorrow.

This one is The Bigotry of Purpose, the second full-length from the Oregonian melodic black metal band Grave Pilgrim, which follows the band’s self-titled debut album in 2021, and a 2022 EP named Molten Hands Reach West.

“CHIVALRIC VIOLENCE AND HIDEOUS CRUELTY”. We saw those words on an informational text about the album that we received from Death Prayer. And sure enough, the music on The Bigotry of Purpose does include cruel and violent music, made from thundering drums and bass, barbaric snarls and screams, and blood-lusting riffs discharged by guitars with distinctive tones.

Those piercing guitars reverberate in wild and wonderful ways, ways that also begin to make a listener understand that use of the word “chivalric“. They often sound glorious, and the layering of them creates tapestries that sometimes seem like the sonic equivalent of medieval portrayals of the clash of swords, pikes, a shields.

The effect is thoroughly exhilarating, and even more so because of the contrast between those myth-making guitars, the organic earthiness of the rhythm section’s sounds, and the rabid, bestial hostility of strangled, serrated-edge snarls.

The rhythm section do make a vital contribution to the music, even though the guitars rule this realm. The drum patterns range from militaristic to punk-ish, from fast hammering to bounding gallops, and a lot more in between. It’s also worth paying attention to the nuances of the bass lines, even though they’re the most subtle element in these spectacles.

But yes, it’s the riveting riffs and shining leads (with a little help from synths) that rule this realm. Mainly propelled at racing speeds, they nevertheless vary in the moods they generate, creating episodes of cold predation, dire conflict, severe agony, and whirling exhilaration.

And the guitars (and synths) create a multitude of changing accents that significantly add to the songs’ electrifying effects. They can erupt in blasts that sound like massed horns, writhe in confusion, skirl in triumph, or cast palls of gloom. The contrasting tones — dense and fuzzed with distortion in the main riffs and pealing like clarions in the leads — add to the magnetism of the music.

In a couple of places Grave Pilgrim break up the album’s ravishing intensity, but without breaking the grandeur of its Old World spell:

The Silver Swan” is a mesmerizing instrumental performance of an early 17th-century madrigal credited to the composer Orlando Gibbons, and in a way it marks a dividing line in the album, with what comes afterward even more rooted in ancient music.

The guitar instrumental at the outset of “Rhiannon’s Wake“, for example, is equally enthralling and equally rooted in a time many centuries past, even including the drum and bass (which made this writer think of old Celtic tunes). In that same song, guest female vocalist SD adds her quavering voice, which also soars in haunting fashion, to a song that’s as heart-breaking as it is riveting, and a lute-like acoustic melody deepens the track’s long reach into a distant age.

SD appears again on the album’s title track, which closes the record after the savage and hard-rocking brawl of “Sublime Flagellation” (which also has its own moments of flag-waving splendor and peasant-dancing to go along with feral grooves and gargoyle vocal hostility).

That album closer twists and turns — primitive, “stripped-down”, and devilishly menacing at times, but also gleaming and as stately as a waltz, and slightly deranged. It’s also home to a guitar solo that sounds psychedelic, and SD‘s witchy vocals, which arrive near the end, are downright apparitional. Thus, at the end, Grave Pilgrim throw us some new surprises.

And so, The Bigotry of Purpose turns out to be a fascinating intersection of ancient musical traditions (both elaborate and folk-oriented), and very new ones, an unusual and very adept melding of ugliness and elegance, of raw violence and spine-tingling glory.

It will likely attract the label “medieval black metal”, but “mythic black metal” would work as well. It very effectively teleports the listener into times and places that did exist in a far-gone age, and others that exist only in the imagination.



TB: Strings, Vox, Composition
CM: Drums, Synth

Death Prayer will release the album on vinyl, cassette tape, and digital formats. Find more info about those options via the links below.



    • This has been a very excellent week for black metal album premieres here, and all 3, while quite distinguishable from each other, fit well together as a listening experience.

  2. Fuck yeah 17th-century madrigal composer Orlando Gibbons !

  3. Very excited to see this coming out today!

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